In the Middle Ages, people hung hawthorn branches over their doorways to prevent the entry of evil spirits. In the 1800s, doctors began to discover the medicinal properties of hawthorn. The herb was first used to treat circulatory disorders and respiratory illnesses. It wasn’t long before hawthorn was considered a herbal tonic for the heart. The berries and flowers were harvested and used to treat just about every condition of the heart: irregular heartbeat; high blood pressure; chest pain; hardening of the arteries; and heart failure. Hawthorn is one herb that could definitely give your heart a boost.
Researchers have tried to determine what it is in hawthorn that makes it such a great alternative therapy for the heart. They have discovered that hawthorn contains flavonoids and oligomeric procyanidins (OPCs), which both have the ability to protect and heal the heart. Researchers think flavonoids could help to dilate blood vessels and improve blood flow. Flavonoids are also thought to protect the blood vessels from damage. OPCs have a similar effect on the heart. OPCs are known to have antioxidant effects.
German researchers recently conducted a big review of clinical trials involving the use of hawthorn extract. The trials, which included more than 4,000 patients, provided clear evidence for the clinical benefits of hawthorn in therapy for of mild chronic heart failure. Besides cardiotonic effects, the researchers say that recent pharmacological investigations indicate that hawthorn extracts also protect blood vessels. They concluded that hawthorn extract may be used in the therapeutic treatment of such conditions as endothelial dysfunction, atherosclerosis, and coronary heart disease, or in the prevention of restenosis/reocclusion following treatment.
Hawthorn is available in non-standardized and standardized capsules and liquid extracts. You can also buy it in tincture or extract form. For those who can stomach it, a bitter-tasting tea can also be made from dried hawthorn leaves, flowers, and berries. You should always talk to your healthcare provider before beginning any herbal treatment. Don’t self-treat a serious condition such as heart disease. As a general guideline, for symptoms of heart failure, you can take 160-600 milligrams daily for at least six weeks.
Hawthorn has been found to be a safe way to naturally boost the health of your heart. However, if you are already taking prescription medication, get your doctor’s advice before supplementing with hawthorn. Hawthorn might enhance the activity of digoxin and counteract the effects of phenylephrine.